How can I treat colic?

Mums who’ve endured the inconsolable crying stage share their tried and tested remedies

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  • Being a mum is hard enough, but when your baby goes through that stage of crying continuously like his heart is going to break, it can just about tip you over the edge. But how do you know it’s colic? “Colic is defined as crying that lasts for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week, in a baby under 3 to 4 months,” says independent health visitor Nicola Joseph. It tends to happen more during the later part of the day too.

    “A baby will cry frantically and may bring his knees up to his chest, clench his fists and arch his back,” says Nicola.

    While experts agree on when colic happens, they remain divided as to exactly what causes it. Rapid feeding, too much air getting into your baby’s feed, wind and food intolerance are all mentioned. Joanna Cram, an osteopath and member of the British Osteopathic Association, has lots of experience in treating colic and says it could be down to your baby’s immature digestive system. “He can find it hard to break down the large enzymes in milk, which results in a spasm of the gut as the digestive nerves work overtime,” she says.

    One thing’s for certain, until the day when an absolute cause is discovered, the only way to soothe your distraught colic-sufferer is by finding out what worked for mums who’ve been through it all before… and survived with their sanity intact. So, here are some tried and tested solutions.

  • Baby massage

    Massage helps release calming endorphins and the right techniques alleviate your baby’s wind,” says Nicola Joseph. “Speak to your health visitor about courses.”

    Helen Gourley, 34, from Dunblane, used massage on Jake, 5, and Zoe, 11 months. “I’d really recommend it,” she says. “Both my children had colic and I found a really simple massage technique, which involved rubbing their tummies in a clockwise direction and then pumping their legs repeatedly, worked really well. I’d do this after every bottle and in the evening if they were really bad, and it helped to settle them. The children really enjoyed it too and they often ended up giggling rather than screaming.”

    Colic calming rating – 9/10

  • Swinging your baby

    The theory is that newborns miss the constant swaying motion they experience in the womb. “Anything that involves motion or movement can help soothe a colicky baby,” says Nicola. A hands-free option is a baby swing as used by Rachel Honour, 27, from Essex. “James loves the repetitiveness of movement that the swing gives,” she says. “And the bumper bar of teddies provides a good distraction from his constant crying. In fact, James gave us his first, and so far only, smile in his swing, so I’m convinced it’s helping him.”

    Colic calming rating – 7/10

  • White noise

    It might sound wacky, but placing your baby near something with a constant hum or vibration does alleviate colic symptoms. “The vacuum cleaner and washing machine seem to soothe babies as they make the same everyday sounds and movements he was used to experiencing when he was in the womb,” says Nicola.

    Sarah Veness, 32, from Norfolk, mum to Archie, 11 months, found white noise was a big help. “When Archie was screaming all day with colic I did some research on the Internet and found white noise might help. So we popped him in front of the tumble drier and his crying stopped. As we couldn’t have the drier on all the time, I found Charlie the Sleepytime Bear, £26.75, which worked wonders. It’s a bear that plays lots of different sounds including white noise and as soon as we switched it on Archie stopped crying. We set it to either 30, 60 or 90-minute cycles and it really helped him settle down and fall asleep.”

    Colic calming rating – 10/10

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  • Go for a drive

    Being on the go seemed to help ease Joe’s colic, so driving around in the dark at night was a regular activity for us when he was really bad,” says Jane Vickers, 35, from Suffolk, mum to Joe, 4 months. “I think seating him in an upright position in his car seat was better for him than lying down, so that helped to settle him a bit too. I did feel slightly ridiculous going out so late and driving along dark country lanes, but you’ll try anything to stop them crying!”

    Colic calming rating – 8/10

  • Bath your baby

    “A warm bath could help ease colic in little ones, as not only is it a distraction but the warmth may dislodge wind,” says Nicola Joseph. “Place a warm towel on him afterwards, which you can heat on a radiator – but check it isn’t too hot before using it.”

    Janine Burroughs, 33, from London, tried bathing Max, 4 months, to ease his colic, but wasn’t convinced with the results. “I thought a nice tepid bath would calm Max down. Although it stopped him crying to begin with I think it was more the shock than anything, as a few minutes later he’d start crying again. And if I didn’t take him out reasonably quickly he’d get really agitated and the crying would get worse.”

    Colic calming rating – 5/10

  • Swaddling

    “Poor Blake suffered really badly with colic but swaddling was like flipping a magic switch,” says Shelley Yarde, 28, from Somerset, mum to Blake, 8 months. “I used the Baby Sense Cuddlewrap, £14.99, and once we had swaddled him he was instantly calmed and settled quickly to sleep. It became part of our bedtime routine and something that my husband could help with, as he was better at swaddling than me! Not only did it help Blake to get to sleep it also helped him sleep for longer periods because without it he would wake himself up by waving his arms around.”

    Colic calming rating – 10/10

  • Osteopathy

    “Osteopathy involves releasing any physical tension created by your baby’s discomfort,” says osteopath Joanna Cram. “It involves massaging the baby’s abdomen, and gentle movement of the spine and shoulder and hip joints, which tend to bear a lot of the strain during colic attacks,” she says.

    Janet Tinley, 34, from Glasgow, used osteopathy on Jay, 2 months. “Jay has suffered from horrific colic that was distressing for the whole family. My health visitor advised I saw an osteopath and after my sister had a positive result with it I decided to give it a go.

    “I couldn’t believe it when there was an almost instant change in Jay. He was completely relaxed and even fell asleep on the way home and slept for a further four hours. He used to go to bed at 7.30pm and scream for one and a half hours, but that night he only cried for 25 minutes and then had a long, peaceful nights sleep. We’ve had three sessions and Jay is so much better – he’s really thriving now.”

    Colic calming rating – 9/10

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  • Use a sling

    “When Pierre was suffering from colic I introduced the Sleepy Wrap Classic Baby Carrier, £36.95,” says Cheryl Pasquier, 37, from East Sussex, mum to Sophie, 8, Juliette, 5, and Pierre, 7 months.

    “I don’t know what it was – my body warmth, the feeling of being tightly wrapped, the fact he can hear my heartbeat or a combination of all three, but it was magic. He’d settle almost instantly and fall asleep so I could get on with what I was doing around the house while he slept all snuggled up against me. It’s great for bonding too.”

    Colic calming rating – 10/10

  • Tiger in the tree

    “This is a position you hold your baby in that puts gentle pressure on her tummy, helping to dislodge the wind that could be giving her colic symptoms,” says Nicola.

    How do you do it? Rest your baby so that she’s lying tummy down on the inside of your arm, with her head in the crook of your elbow. Then hook the little foot nearest to your body over your inner forearm and gently walk up and down with her.

    Carly Yeganeh, 26, from Cambridgeshire, mum to Soraya, 10 months, is a believer in this method. “Soraya would be screaming in pain, but as soon as we put her into this position she would stop and even fall asleep. It’s great for strengthening your arm muscles too!”

    Colic calming rating – 10/10

  • Anti-colic bottles

    “Anti-colic bottles reduce the amount of air your baby swallows,” says Nicola Joseph. Most of them eliminate the vacuum created in a bottle when your baby sucks. This vacuum leads to your baby taking in more air with his milk. Get rid of it and the theory is that you have a less colicky baby.

    Three anti-colic bottles you could try...

    Nuby Natural Touch Softflex Silicone Nurser, £12.05

    “Since using the Nuby bottles Samuel’s been a lot less windy and he seems to be burping much quicker after feeds. The best bit is he’s only been crying for half an hour after feeds instead of two hours,” said Elizabeth Draisey, 32, from Berkshire, mum to Samuel, 6 weeks.

    MAM Anti-colic bottles, £14.00 for a three pack

    These bottles had an instant effect on Jack’s colic. Not only are they an excellent design and very sturdy,  but they look beautiful too. The downside is they’re quite fiddly to put together – but it’s worth it if it stops the screaming!” said Jenny Hayes, 31, from Essex, mum to Jack, 3 months

    Dr Brown’s Natural Flow, £5.62

    “Milo has been crying for at least three hours each evening but after using the Dr Brown’s bottle his screaming did decrease and he went from crying to being a bit grizzly, which is definitely an improvement,” said Sally Learmouth, 33, from Middlesex, mum to Milo, 6 weeks.

  • Over-the-counter remedies

    Colief Infant Drops, £10.99

    When added to your baby’s milk it breaks down the lactose making the feed more easily digestible.“It worked really well, but talk to your doctor about getting it on prescription, as it can be quite expensive,” said Sue Hallard, 38, from Essex, mum to Gavin, 4 months.

    Infacol, £3.50

    Infacol contains simeticone and works by making the small trapped air bubbles bigger, so that they are easier for your baby to burp up, gently relieving pain. “Infacol works like a dream, my daughter hasn’t had colic once since using it,” said Amelia Brown, 29, from East Dulwich, mum to Tilly, 3 months.

    Dentinox Infant Colic Drops, £3.11

    Dentinox drops contain dimeticone, which bursts trapped bubbles in your baby’s tummy.

    “James had colic until he was 7 weeks. Dentinox worked wonders. It goes into the bottle at each feed and after a week he was happier,” said Megan Jones, 28, from Chester, mum to James, 4 months.

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  • The natural remedy

    “I used Weleda Chamomilla 3X Granules, £6.95. The herb chamomile has natural calming, anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties, to ease indigestion. They were invaluable. The granules are easily sucked and dissolve in even the tiniest mouth,” said Karen Wiltshire, 36, from Bristol, mum to Declan, 5, Faith, 2, and Haydn, 6 months.

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